The Emirates Palace
Trip Start Aug 19, 2008
23Trip End Ongoing
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I decide to brave the heat and take a walk to the Emirates Palace hotel directly across the crossroads from my hotel. On the map it looks a short stroll but by the time I've crossed the road via the underpass, waited for the traffic to clear on the crossroads, and discovered that the first entrance I reach is not the right one and I have to walk another 400 yards, a full fifteen minutes have passed. I am exhausted and soaking wet. There is an Indian man on the gatehouse and as I pant in the shade of his awning he confirms that "it is very hot"
The hotel is spectacular. It was the most expensive hotel in the world to build, and is Abu Dhabi's answer to Dubai's more famous Burj Al Arab. The walls and the floor are marble, the skirting is marble of a contrasting colour. It is midday and a harpist in evening dress is playing in the lobby. I have a coffee and then find the toilets which are hidden away down a marble hall. The logos for the gents' and ladies' entrances are unusual. The gent is in Arab headgear, the lady in a burkha. Inside, the marble theme matches the rest of the hotel. I feel a bit strange taking a photo of the inside of a toilet, but I notice the next two people to come in do the same. Bloody tourists.
After the walk to get here I'm certainly not stupid enough to walk back. I get a taxi to a nearby mall. The temperature readout on the dashboard flicks between 43.5 and 44C.
In the evening I take a trip into the centre of town to have a look through the gold shops. I offend the owner of one of them. I am browsing around when he spots my white forehead with mug written across it from the other side of the shop and he immediately comes over to talk. He has in front of him a tray of garish gold rings - the kind of things that a darts player or a cockney would wear - and he holds out his hand to me. I assume he's asking me to hold out my hand to try on one of his ridiculous products so I recoil in mock horror. In fact he's holding out his hand to shake mine, and he's deeply offended at my response. I do then shake his hand but the damage has already been done, which is fine by me
Although the UAE is in theory an alcohol free country, the bars of upmarket hotels have an exemption, but you pay for the privilege:
1 Pint of Hoegaarden in the Crowne Plaza bar - 29 Dirhams - £4:50
1 Pint of Stella in the Hilton bar - 53 Dirhams - £8:19